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Old 12-06-2008, 08:38 AM   #1
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Does anyone know what the heck I may have here?
I pulled the cover plate to change out a few switches at the end of a hallway and there were 2, 3-way switches. One for the hallway and one for the kitchen light. That was fine, shut off breakers and changed out.
Now, I have a 3rd ?switch? in the box that is a fairly large square with 4 wires going to it. There are 2 from one line and 2 from a separate line that connect to each of the four corners.
It looks exactly like a light switch with the covers on but doesn't seem to switch anything.
The power to this did not go off when I shut the other breakers off.
I pulled the switch, capped the lines and took it apart.
There are 4 drum like things inside with the switch handle connecting them together and they just rock back and forth, no contacts or anything.

Any idea what the heck this might be?

I'll try to get a couple pictures later if possible.

Thanks

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Old 12-06-2008, 09:03 AM   #2
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Four terminal two position switches come in two common varieties:

1. A double pole switch, to turn two independent circuits, say two different lights, on and off together.

2. A 4 way switch, to allow controlling one light from three different locations.

In your case, when you saw the two drums that seemingly do nothing, were there projections or nubs on the drums? Were there metal contacts in the back of the housing that the nubs would engage?

Maybe the switch was so worn out that all you would find are the remnants of contacts.

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Old 12-06-2008, 09:50 AM   #3
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Here's a few pictures of the switch in it's disassembled state...

In some you can see where I removed the center to get a better look inside...
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Old 12-06-2008, 09:57 AM   #4
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Those were a little smaller than expected...
Try these..
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?-dsc00796s.jpg   Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?-dsc00795s.jpg   Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?-dsc00794s.jpg   Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?-dsc00793s.jpg  
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Old 12-06-2008, 10:44 AM   #5
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Looks like a dimmer switch. But perhaps for 2 circuits at the same time?

Does it have any numbers on it? Other printed information?
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Old 12-06-2008, 11:35 AM   #6
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


My guess; controal switch for a motor load such as an attic fan. Can you trace the wires and see where they go?jamie
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Old 12-06-2008, 06:42 PM   #7
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


I've already got the attic fan on a switch and a speed control at the other end of the hallway and that looks to be original too so I don't think it's any kind of update.
I guess my only other choice is to head into the attic and try and trace it as best as I can. I can see both lines run in/out the top of the box so they both appear to head to the attic.
I may try to attempt this tomorrow.
Right now I removed the switch, capped the wires and put a switch not connected to anything in front of it.
Is there any other option for filling the empty space?
I don't recall seeing faceplates with one gang blocked off so I could just leave it out and cover it up.
I did notice that when testing it the voltage did not seem to switch but the amperage seemed to. It went from measuring 1.2A to 3.4A when in different positions.
I tried measuring resistance but it seemed to keep jumping back and forth with no real set reading being settled on.
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Old 12-06-2008, 07:17 PM   #8
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nhrafan View Post
I've already got the attic fan on a switch and a speed control at the other end of the hallway and that looks to be original too so I don't think it's any kind of update.
I guess my only other choice is to head into the attic and try and trace it as best as I can. I can see both lines run in/out the top of the box so they both appear to head to the attic.
I may try to attempt this tomorrow.
Right now I removed the switch, capped the wires and put a switch not connected to anything in front of it.
Is there any other option for filling the empty space?
I don't recall seeing faceplates with one gang blocked off so I could just leave it out and cover it up.
I did notice that when testing it the voltage did not seem to switch but the amperage seemed to. It went from measuring 1.2A to 3.4A when in different positions.
I tried measuring resistance but it seemed to keep jumping back and forth with no real set reading being settled on.
So there was a load on this switch? You have a clamp meter that you taking these readings with?

Are you have to figure out which breaker this is on, if it is on a deadicated breaker? Is it possiable it is labeled in your breaker panel?

Do you have the wires connected, always on now or are they disconnected and each have a nut on them?

It those are accurate amp readings, then you have some load on this switch, and I would figure out what it is.

Cover plates: they make lots and lots of them (many configs), but you have to get them from electrical supply or order them, look at the cover places on leviton or pass and seymour.
Jamie
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Old 12-06-2008, 07:24 PM   #9
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


So there was a load on this switch? You have a clamp meter that you taking these readings with?

Are you have to figure out which breaker this is on, if it is on a deadicated breaker? Is it possiable it is labeled in your breaker panel?
That's my main problem is trying to figure out what breaker/circuit this is on.
I have a feeling it may be tied to my living room circuit but I don't want to shut this on and off since I have my large saltwater aquarium on this and hate useless cycling of the UPS's.


Do you have the wires connected, always on now or are they disconnected and each have a nut on them?

Right now they are all disconnected and capped individually.
I haven't found anything that isn't working.... yet.

It those are accurate amp readings, then you have some load on this switch, and I would figure out what it is.
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Old 12-06-2008, 07:31 PM   #10
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


This thing looks like an old bulky 4-way. Do you have a flood light outside that you have forgotten about?

Also, put your meter on continuity and place one lead on say the bottom right terminal and check for continuity on the top terminals. If you find it, flip the swithc and see if it changes to the other terminal. If it does, it's a 4-way.

Last edited by InPhase277; 12-06-2008 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 12-06-2008, 08:05 PM   #11
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nhrafan View Post
So there was a load on this switch? You have a clamp meter that you taking these readings with?

Are you have to figure out which breaker this is on, if it is on a deadicated breaker? Is it possiable it is labeled in your breaker panel?
That's my main problem is trying to figure out what breaker/circuit this is on.
I have a feeling it may be tied to my living room circuit but I don't want to shut this on and off since I have my large saltwater aquarium on this and hate useless cycling of the UPS's.

Do you have the wires connected, always on now or are they disconnected and each have a nut on them?

Right now they are all disconnected and capped individually.
I haven't found anything that isn't working.... yet.

It those are accurate amp readings, then you have some load on this switch, and I would figure out what it is.
You said it was a 1965 GE switch? Did it have a model number on it? I am just curious if this is just a 4 way switch. I have some 4 way switches installed that were from 1963 and they look just like modern switches.

If you have wire nut securely attached then I can't see what it's going to hurt to have it gone, other than you may find out later something doesn't work.

Could you have had a Oil burning furnace? Is this near the stairs to the basement, could this have been a oil burner shut off switch?

Jamie
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Old 12-07-2008, 11:12 AM   #12
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Get a new 4 way switch. Connect the two top wires (as removed from the old switch) to the dark terminals (of the new switch) and the two bottom wires to the light terminals. Save the old switch as a souvenir.

This is what I come up with:

In the old switch, the rollers are the switch contacts, probably mercury filled. The left and right halves of a roller are shorted together by the (mercury) inside for the closed position. The metal linkage to the switch handle is mechanical, not electrical.

The top left terminal connects to the outsides of the left rollers. The top right terminal connects to the outsides of the right rollers.

The bottom left terminal connects to the insides of the upper rollers. The bottom right terminal connects to the insides of the lower rollers.

What I am not sure about is whether there are nubs and notches that prevent re-assembly of the switch in a manner that causes unpredictable behavior. All four rollers are supposed to be synchronized by the switch handle so current goes through left top to bottom and right top to bottom (top left and bottom right rollers closed), or an X crossover top to bottom (top right and bottom left rollers closed).

Last edited by AllanJ; 12-07-2008 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 12-07-2008, 01:10 PM   #13
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


Get a new 4 way switch. Connect the two top wires (as removed from the old switch) to the dark terminals (of the new switch) and the two bottom wires to the light terminals. Save the old switch as a souvenir.

This is what I come up with:

In the old switch, the rollers are the switch contacts, probably mercury filled. The left and right halves of a roller are shorted together by the (mercury) inside for the closed position. The metal linkage to the switch handle is mechanical, not electrical.

Yes, the metal of the switch handle is isolated from touching anything but the rollers.

The top left terminal connects to the outsides of the left rollers. The top right terminal connects to the outsides of the right rollers.

The bottom left terminal connects to the insides of the upper rollers. The bottom right terminal connects to the insides of the lower rollers.

I believe that is how it's laid out, yes.
What I am not sure about is whether there are nubs and notches that prevent re-assembly of the switch in a manner that causes unpredictable behavior. All four rollers are supposed to be synchronized by the switch handle so current goes through left top to bottom and right top to bottom (top left and bottom right rollers closed), or an X crossover top to bottom (top right and bottom left rollers closed).
Yes, there are small indents on the rollers that the metal tabs from the handle assembly fit into to move all at the same time.
The rollers have a rubber/plastic ring around the middle of them so I assumed that one side was isolated from the other. I didn't think of mercury inside to act as contacts!
Now..... I wonder what this thing is supposed to turn on...?

I have no furnace, nor did the house ever have one. I have radiant heating in the floor (electric) throughout the house.
The outside lights on the porch work fine, the whole house fan works fine too.
There is one other switch on the other side of the living room that I don't have a clue what it's for, but that's just a regular switch. Doesn't control anything that I know of yet.
Lived here about 4 1/2 years so far and haven't found any use for it other than to confuse people which one turns on the garage light.
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Old 12-07-2008, 01:47 PM   #14
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Old (1965) GE 4-wire ?switch?


It's an old 4-way switch. You can see one of the crossover thingies in those pictures.

Probably controls an outlet somewhere, or maybe even a blanked off light that is no longer visible.

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